Thursday, 29 October 2009

The ghost of Macpherson still haunts the British Police Force

Both the Mail and the Telegraph run with this idiotic story about a lesbian police officer who has labelled the police force as (wait for it..) "insititutionally homophobic." Remember that little phrase? Used first to describe the police force as "institutionally racist" by Macpherson and a whole line of cowardly higher-ups in the force? Well now its mutated! Of course the fact that she gets the meaning wrong (institutionally homophobic would means the rules, structures etc of the police would be homophobic, while all she is saying is that a large number of officers 'discriminated' against her) doesn't matter. After all it goes on with the continual narrative set up by MacPherson that police are racist, bigot, sexist homophobes, so it must be true!

The story itself is a relatively typical discrimination case, and to be fair, we don't know if some of the jokes and comments she refers to happened or not, and certainly if there was real discrimination against Sgt Stewart, then it would be inappropriate and need dealing with. Yet there are a couple of elements to the story that tweaked my ear, and made me think that this is more down to complete idiocy and the soul-destroying influence of the MacPherson report than due to any actual discrimination. The first thing that should be ringing alarm bells is the main accusation of homophobia that Sgt Stewart makes. The main accusation she makes isn't a joke, a comment, but instead the decision to refuse her request that her and her partner work on the same team, something that she was eventually allowed to do after she threatened a grievance procedure, to which her superiors soiled themselves and backed down.

If you are like me, you are probably wondering where the homophobia is in this incident? In the story, all we are told to justify this claim is Sgt Stewart's 'knowledge' that heterosexual police officers worked together, and some vague comment by her inspector that people wouldn't like it if they knew they were a couple - which could mean a million different things. Anyway, lets deal with this, and lets take sexuality out of it.

Imagine you are an inspector, and one of your sergeants comes to you and asks for someone that they are going out with to be transferred to your team. Lets assume the person they are asking to be transferred is not a fellow Sgt but a lowly PC. This means that first of all there is a risk of bias - surely not a coincidence that this sergeant is asking for their partner to be moved? This bias, perceived or otherwise, may also present itself by other members of the team, "She has only been given that cushy assignment because she is sleeping with the Sgt" they might say. "Have you noticed how much of a clique they are?" etc etc. In fact, if this was a male sergeant in a relationship with a female PC, it would open itself up to a harassment claim - "In order to get anywhere in this place, you have to sleep with the boss!" So this move could be very risky for morale.

Second of all, there is the risk of a lack of productivity. Anyone who has been in a working environment with someone they are dating knows that this can affect productivity. Its very easy to get distracted, depending on the personalities there might be jealousy issues, or simply "we are a couple in love and can't keep our hands off each other" issues. Also, what if there is a break up? Will they be able to work together productively? Will Sgt Stewart then demand (because lets face it, she demanded the move, she didn't ask if she wasn't prepared to take no for an answer.) that her partner is kicked back to where she came on, and the latest fling brought in?

Finally there are issues of professionalism in the field, and in a way these are the most important. If Sgt Stewart sees her partner being hurt, is she going to react reasonably, or is this going to affect judgement? With the rise of pro-criminal legislation, and also camera phones, there would be a great risk to the force's reputation if Sgt Stewart lost it and started beating the hell out of some criminal! Or would she instead choose to hold her partner back, and send other officers on those risky assignments?

There are many problems to making this transfer, and if I was the Inspector in question, I'd definitely refuse permission, not because I'm not raving homophobe, but because of the morale and safety of that team that could be damaged by such an irresponsible move. Yes, there may be people in different stages of relationships in teams for a number of reasons, and it is certainly not up to the Inspector to pry, unless a problem was brought to his attention. But it is also not for him to actively encourage such behaviour, which is of course what Sgt Stewart wants. Yet it is the ghost of Macpherson that haunts the force now, not the spirit of common-sense, and sure enough the inspector folded on the issue, and is still being claimed against.

Finally, I look at her accusation of other comments and jokes, and notice the subjective element to them. She appears to admit that there might be nothing in them objectively but then comes the lines that make me think the police will actually lose this case. "I felt the way it was said was because Mhairi and I were gay." So, nothing that was actually said was homophobic, just the way in which it was said. Then the classic line, referring to an insubordinate PC, "Every time I asked him to do something it was met with resistance. He would comply in the main if one of my male counterparts asked. My perception is that he had an issue with my sexuality and my sex."

The obvious reposte to this is, "Or maybe it was because he just didn't like you?" But of course it doesn't matter. MacPherson defined a racist incident as one that was perceived to be racist by any party involved. Surely it is a logical step to apply this to homophobia as well? She perceived the incidents to be homophobic, therefore they are. Case closed. It is for this reason that I think Sgt Stewart will win, and why the already rock-bottom morale of the police will be kicked around some more. Sad isn't it?

Friday, 16 October 2009

More moral gymnastics for Libya.

The Telegraph breaks this story about how the British Government has seemingly decided not to charge two Libyan men in connection with the death of WPc Yvonne Fletcher in 1984. The two men are relatively high up in Gaddafi's regime, and it would certainly cause a fuss if the government decided to demand justice for WPc Fletcher and her family (and for Britain in general.) There is certainly a case to be made for not pushing it too much, this was 1984 one might say, it was one person, and now, alongside the Obama adminstration's push for 'looking forward', we need to do the same and move on. I disagree with such an argument, but it has been put about a fair bit on other issues, and seems to be the policy of government right now.

Unfortunately this whole 'moving on' policy that Obama has been pushing, and Brown and co have been skipping alongside trying to keep up with, is a complete farce. Although it may have earnt President Obama a Nobel Peace Prize for "creating a new international climate" this climate is not one that suits America or Britain. One of the key features of this masochistic policy has been to pander to nutcase regimes like Iran and Libya, while throwing Anglo-American allies under the bus (like Israel, Japan, Poland etc.) Now, while being 'fairer' and being a little tougher with one's allies, and 'stretching out an open hand' to one's enemies may sound nice in a poem or in a Harvard lecture theatre, in real life it severely damages national interests, strengthens extreme regimes like Iran and Libya, and gets people killed.

In 2009 so far, we have had Britain release the Lockerbie bomber (which caused an Anglo-American rift after Obama criticised Britain for it, although it subsequently came out that he knew all about it), we've had Obama shaking hands with Gaddafi left right and center, Brown met him a while back, Obama gave a 'America is not better than anyone' speech at the U.N which was followed by a delighted Gaddafi showing his approval. That's just Libya, it would take all day to get into everything else Obama and Brown have done to appease the lunatics of the world. So, today's announcement about WPc Fletcher should shock but shouldn't surprise.

The implied reason for this move is business interests (I think this is true for the British goverment, while for Obama its more of an ego trip about saving the world.) Now, I'm not naiive, in order to do business, you can't always operate with only the Saints, and sometimes you have to make some tough compromises. However, the message that is being sent out is not 'Britain is willing to compromise to do good business', the message now is simply that Britain has lost its strength. Both America and Britain have capitulated on a number of occasions to Libya and pals, and what for? Has all this bending over backwards really gained us a great deal? If we have gained significant business deals from this, is it really worth it? Now we are telling people that you can commit enormous human rights violations, wage war on the West, come onto British soil, blow up airliners full of American and British civilians and shoot our police officers in cold blood in the street, and as long as you have some oil to distract us, we'll let it go. What sort of signal does this send?

This is an extremely dangerous precedent to set. I thought it was supposed to be George Bush who was 'obsessed' with oil, as the left so frequently told us? Well at least Bush wasn't prepared to threaten our national security and our status in the world for it. There is a reason that British and American governments have never negotiated with terrorists before now: because if you do and they are seen to get what they want, then it encourages others to do exactly the same. I dread to wonder what the American and British governments have encouraged by these reckless capitulations.